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Senate Confirms Alex Acosta for Secretary of Labor

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, April 28, 2017

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Alex Acosta to be the Secretary of Labor by a vote of 60-38. The vote garnered support from 9 Democrats, marking a strong difference from the partisan nature of many of the other Cabinet confirmation votes. With the confirmation of Alex Acosta settled, there remains only one more Cabinet-level nominee awaiting a vote from the full Senate, President Trump's pick for trade representative, Robert E. Lighthizer. The Trump Administration still has hundreds of important positions to fill within the agencies, but Acosta's confirmation will hopefully create some more clarity on what leadership for OSHA and MSHA will look like.  

President Trump nominated Alex Acosta for the role of Secretary of Labor after his initial nominee Andy Puzder withdrew from consideration after considerable opposition from labor groups and consumer advocates. Acosta served on the National Labor Relations Board from 2002-2003 in addition to working as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  Secretary Acosta's past experiences stand him in good stead to understand and manage the portfolio of outstanding and future labor issues. 

Tags:  administration  confirmation  labor  Secretary of Labor  senate 

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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on US Dependence on Foreign Minerals

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing “To Examine the United States’ Increasing Dependence on Foreign Sources of Minerals and Opportunities to Rebuild and Improve the Supply Chain in the United States”. The Hearing featured testimony from a variety of experts who were able to provide insight into both the importance of cultivating a domestic supply chain for minerals and the current impediments to investment in mining in the United States. The list of witnesses was as follows:

·       Dr. Murray Hitzman, Associate Director, Energy and Minerals, The U.S. Geological Survey (testimony)

·       Mr. Alf Barrios, Chief Executive, Rio Tinto Aluminum (testimony)

·       Dr. Chris Hinde, Director of Reports, Metals and Mining, S&P Global Market Intelligence (testimony)

·       Mr. Randy MacGillivray, Vice President, Project Development, Ucore Rare Metals, Inc. (testimony)

·       Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, USN (Retired), President and Chief Executive Officer, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) (testimony)

·       Dr. Roderick G. Eggert, Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Chair in Mineral Economics Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines (testimony)

 

Chairwoman Murkowski (R-AK) continues to be a champion for mineral development and investment in the United States. Her opening statement as well as her questions demonstrated her knowledge of the role minerals play in the global and domestic economy and the reliance every sector has on accessible and affordable minerals. In addition to the predictably supportive Republican Senators, the Democrat Senators in attendance all also appeared to understand the importance of the mining industry and the responsible development of domestic resources. During the Q&A portion of the hearing the Senators asked questions on a variety of issues that impact IMA-NA members. Please see the synopses below on questions of particular interest.

 

·       Permitting: Multiple Senators asked for insight on how the permitting process impacts US development of mineral resources. The consistent message from the panel was that the permitting process in the United States needs takes substantially longer than Canada and Australia, two countries with comparable standards, and that the process can be improved by eliminating duplicative components, syncing up different agencies’ requirements to work on things simultaneously, setting actualized deadlines, and providing certainty in the long term requirements.

·       CERCLA: Senator Lee (R-UT) asked whether CERCLA 108(b) would have a negative impact on the mining industry. Mr. Barrios answered that the rule would disincentivize investment in new mining projects in the United States. Additionally, Barrios noted that the bonding requirements are duplicative as companies already carry bonding under other programs to cover the clean up of contaminated sites.

·       Education: The Committee had questions related to both the education of the general public, Congress, and the Administration about the industry and the state of the mining engineering pipeline at mining schools. These questions reflect conversations IMA-NA members and staff continue on the best way to increase awareness of our industry in a positive light. In addition, the focus on encouraging the next generation of mining professionals also mirrors current IMA-NA outreach and program development.

·       Minerals Science: Senator Murkowski took some time to comment on her belief in funding the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide the US with the most complete information possible on the resources available. She specifically focused on the need to create a complete map of the minerals of United States, as only 1/3 of the country is currently mapped.

·       Transportation: Senator Stabenow (D-MI) asked a question about the role access to reasonable transportation for mined products has in promoting domestic production of minerals. The panel all related that transportation costs made up a large part of operating budgets and certainly could negatively impact domestic production.

·       Soda Ash: Senator Barrasso (R-WY) asked a question about how minerals, such as Soda Ash, can remain competitive in a global market when US producers face both higher transportation costs and regulatory burdens, and are not subsidized in the way China subsidizes mining. Dr. Hitzman highlighted the importance of reliable transportation infrastructure, favorable tax codes, and consistent interpretation of laws and regulations.

 

The hearing gave a good indication of how the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee views the role of the mining industry in our economy and our national defense. Chairwoman Murkowski acknowledged plans to reintroduce her legislation S. 883, American Mineral Security Act of 2015, from last session as a way to further raise the importance of minerals to our national and economic well-being. Overall, the hearing provided the industry the opportunity to highlight the challenges of operating in the United States as well as the positive contributions the industry makes to society. 

To read Chairwoman Murkowski's opening statement click here.

To watch the recording of the hearing click here. 

Tags:  Barrasso  CERCLA  Congress  Energy and Natural Resources  ENR  hearing  industrial minerals industry  legislation  Legislators  minerals science  Murkowski  Senate  soda ash  usgs 

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Cabinet Confirmations Move Forward - Mulvaney & Pruitt

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, February 17, 2017

Yesterday, Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC5) was sworn in as the new Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Senate confirmed Mulvaney by a narrow margin of 51-49, largely along party lines.  Senator John McCain was the only Republican to vote against the confirmation, a decision that was made due to Mulvaney's past opposition to budget increases for the military.  Under the leadership of a fiscal hawk, OMB will play an important role in the Trump Administration's plans to rein in overly burdensome regulations.  The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), in OMB, which conducts reviews proposed regulations and evaluates the economic impacts, is expected to fulfill its role as a check on regulatory overreach more effectively in the new Administration. The confirmation of Mick Mulvaney also allows for OMB to begin reviewing agency budget proposals, a process that has been on hold while there was not a Director in place.

The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) largely along party lines with a final vote of 52-46.  Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke with the Democratic Party and voted for Pruitt while Susan Collins of Maine voted against his confirmation.  Pruitt's confirmation is seen as a coup for the Administration and Republican Party who criticized the EPA loudly for regulatory overreach under the Obama Administration.  Pruitt has a long history of legal challenges to various EPA regulations and his confirmation has been opposed by environmentalists who view him as an enemy to the stated goals of the EPA.  For industry, Pruitt's confirmation is another signal that the regulatory environment in the United States will become substantially friendlier to business and traditional industrial developments. 

As Congress continues using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to revoke various regulations from the last year of Obama's Administration these two confirmations will be shaping the new Administration's regulatory agenda in its new direction.

Tags:  administration  cabinet  confirmation  EPA  Mulvaney  OMB  Pruitt  Regulations  Senate  Trump 

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Ryan Zinke's Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Interior Scheduled for This Afternoon

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Tuesday, January 17, 2017

At 2:15 EST, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will convene to hold the confirmation hearing for Donald Drumpf's nominee for Secretary of Interior, Representative Ryan Zinke (MT-AL). As IMA-NA noted on both the blog and the First Friday call, Ryan Zinke was an unexpected choice for the role of Secretary of Interior, given that he is the first term Congressman from Montana. Despite his relative inexperience governing, Rep. Zinke's confirmation is anticipated to proceed without controversy or impediment. IMA-NA is looking forward to learning more about Rep. Zinke's approach to leading the Department of Interior as his confirmation process moves along.

To watch the Committee's live webcast of the hearing click here. 

To read Rep. Zinke's confirmation questionnaire click here. 

Tags:  appointee  department of interior  hearing  nominee  ryan zinke  Senate  Trump 

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Perkins Reauthorization Passes House

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This afternoon the House of Representatives passed the Perkins reauthorization, HR 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, with broad bipartisan support. The Perkins bill has not been reauthorized in over a decade and is an important federal investment in career and technical education across the United States.  In the current political environment or severe partisanship, it is important to note that HR 5587 passed out of the Education and Workforce Committee unanimously and today passed in the House by a vote of 405-5 (with 22 no votes). IMA-NA has worked with a broad coalition of industry and other stakeholders in support of the Perkins reauthorization and is pleased to note the continued bipartisan support for this measure. Indications seem to be that the bill will move through markup in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee next week, with the vote likely happening when Congress returns in December.

To read more about HR 5587 click here

Tags:  House  legislation  perkins reauthorization  Senate  training  workforce development 

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Senate Passes Energy Policy Modernization Act

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This morning the Senate passed Senator Murkowski's Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012) by a vote of 85-12.  The bill grew out of a bipartisan effort in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and addresses a wide array of energy issues including: energy efficiency standards, electric grid infrastructure, across the board energy development, and resource management funding. IMA-NA supported the bill, specifically Subtitle D. which was comprised entirely of Senator Murkowski's American Mineral Security Act of 2015 (S. 883).  Passage of S. 2012 is impressive for the scope of the issues addressed by the legislation but for the mining industry it is a step towards greater recognition of the important role minerals play in our economy and energy development.  Subtitle D. pushes for greater funding for USGS and their minerals sciences, specifically with the goal of mapping and forecasting our resources in the United States. The Senate vote this morning on a comprehensive energy bill is the first success since 2007 and the inclusion of minerals and minerals sciences is an important step forward. 

To read the bill click here. 

Tags:  energy  industrial minerals industry  legislation  minerals science  msic  Senate  USGS 

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Capitol Hill Briefing Today on Critical Minerals & Materials

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, March 3, 2016

As part of IMA-NA's role on the steering committee of the Minerals Science Information Coalition (MSIC), we are sponsoring both a Senate and House Briefing entitled: Underpinning Innovation: The Science and Supply of America’s Critical Minerals and Materials.  The primary goal of MSIC is to increase awareness and funding of the USGS programs and research.  USGS's research and mapping of resources is the primary source of information related to mineral stores not just for the United States, but for the world. In support MSIC's long term goals,  IMA-NA and the Coalition have supported legislation offered by Senator Murkowski this session to increase funding to USGS in order to develop a system to categorize critical minerals and work towards forecasting tools. The Briefings this afternoon begin on the House side and aim to further support USGS as well as highlight the importance of a strong supply chain of minerals. Speakers include: Lawrence D. Meinert, Program Coordinator, Mineral Resources Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Steven M. Fortier, Director, National Minerals Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey, and Rod Eggert, Professor, Colorado School of Mines, and Deputy Director, Critical Materials Institute, Ames Laboratory.   

Please see the attached flier for more information or contact Ariel Hill-Davis to find out more about the work of the Minerals Science Information Coalition. 

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  briefing  education  House  legislation  minerals science  msic  outreach  Senate 

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Proposed Budgets Pass in Both House and Senate

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, March 27, 2015

This week, both the House and the Senate passed their respective budgets for FY 2016.  Following the House's narrow passage of their proposed budget on Wednesday, the Senate also managed to pass a proposed budget in the early hours of Friday morning. The final vote of 52-46 happened shortly before 3:30 in the morning following hours of votes on the numerous amendments offered.  The "vote-a-rama", as it is being called, included over 40 amendments largely aimed at forcing each party to vote on issues with political capital.

Although each House passed budget proposals, the real test will be whether the chambers can agree on a final budget prior to the April 15th deadline.  It has been over 5 years since Congress has managed to agree on a final budget and it remains to be seen whether the GOP can deliver a package the different segments of the party will support. In the coming weeks, the GOP will attempt to deliver on at least part of the campaign promises which gave them control of both the House and the Senate.

For more details on the Senate budget package click here

For more details on the House budget package click here.

Tags:  budget  Congress  House  politics  Senate 

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Republicans Sweep Elections - Gain Control of Senate

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, November 5, 2014

As predicted, after polls closed and votes were tallied the Republican Party picked up seats in the Senate and House of Representatives, in addition to gaining two more Governorships. Excluding the races that remain undetermined, Republicans now hold the majority in the Senate by 52-45 and in the House by 242-174.  Although Republican gains were predicted, the performance of the GOP in this cycle was even stronger than anticipated.  In a year characterized by abysmally low approval ratings for politicians across the board, the GOP’s sweep of elections is noteworthy. GOP control of both Houses of Congress is sure to yield interesting and hopefully productive interaction between the Legislative and Executive branches.  There are expectations for increased hearings on government oversight and legislation aimed at halting the implementation of new or strengthened regulations. In the meantime, during the lame duck session it seems likely the Senate Democrats will focus on approving the list of currently stalled Presidential nominations.

The races still being decided include Alaska, Virginia, and Louisiana.  While Alaska and Virginia may take a few days to sort out, Louisiana will have a runoff between incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D) and challenger Representative Bill Cassidy (R) on December 6.

Tags:  congress  democrats  elections  republicans  senate 

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Mind the Gap - The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Signed into Law

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, June 26, 2014
Updated: Friday, July 11, 2014

On July 22nd, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law, replacing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The House passed the WIOA earlier in July by an overwhelming majority of 415-6, following its June passage in the Senate by a vote of 95-3. WIOA is the updated reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a bill that was due for reauthorization in 2003. The signing of WIOA into law follows a lengthy bipartisan, bicameral negotiation that reached a conclusion in May with the current version of WIOA.  This is an exciting demonstration of what can be accomplished when Congress and the Administration cooperates on legislation and may be one of the only examples of bipartisanship as campaign season looms.

Congress passed the original WIA in 1998 with the goal of creating a system of programs to train the workforce businesses in the United States needed.  WIA created federally funded, one-stop shop career centers where individuals could access specific training and educational programs as well as other employment services. The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act was reauthorized the same year as WIA’s passage, demonstrating the focus on workforce development issues in 1998.  Unlike WIA, which has been held in limbo for more than a decade, the updated Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act  (CTE) was reauthorized again in 2006.

The long road back to reauthorization of WIA has left a void in public policy related to our investment in workforce development.  Congress has sent a clear message of renewed commitment to ensuring our nation has a skilled and capable workforce. This step towards active promotion of economic growth through creating a dependable workforce is a powerful move.

To read a side-by-side comparison of WIA and WIOA click here.

To read a letter of support IMA-NA signed onto click here.

Tags:  Congress  education  legislation  Senate  skills gap  workforce development 

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